She pulls the blanket close around her shivering form, the draught from the ill-fitting windows like icy water against her pale skin. All light has long been extinguished; Gideon’s heavy breathing her only company as she stares into the lonely darkness. She cannot sleep, thoughts of her home and family haunting her worse than nightmares.
She should never have slipped away in the midst of the night with him and she should not have been convinced that this is what she wants. The vision of the life Gideon paints for her is one consisting of dreams and fantasies, one that can only exist in a world that never existed in the first place. They are no longer young and carefree; their responsibilities force them to follow one path and one path only, one that split long ago. They are polar opposites, never together for long, pushing each other away. She cannot stay with him for much longer, her guilt and unease driving them further apart by the minute. He reminds her of everything that is dishonest about her.
He promised her passion, he promised her love, but she does not think she can love a man who so easily tears her away from her family. He confuses her, bewilders her, and the false emotion of love he gives her wears thin all too quickly. Moments of longing and of desire turn to revulsion and shame; his touch makes her shudder. It cannot continue, she knows this, but in daylight her fears diminish, hiding in places where she refuses to look. At night, when she has nothing but her thoughts for company, they cannot hide. She may have wanted this once upon a time, but this is one fairy-tale that cannot come true. He is not the Prince Charming he has painted himself to be, this is not the act of rescuing her from her tower. She has left behind a reality, a life carefully constructed to withstand blows from an enemy, rising from the flames of adversity. Now has she destroyed it, taking the life she had apart brick by brick until all that is left is the guilt and shadows of sins past. She can only blame herself.
Come with me, his letter read. It’s not too late to leave it all behind. We can start again. His words held a powerful grip on her, old regrets and desires surfacing so that they were never far from her thoughts. She despises him for the hypnotic power he has, for the words he says that always strike her heart where old wounds lie sleeping. He makes her dream of what could have been. He makes her want him. She went with him and left it all behind, but she can never start again. Her naivety is her curse.
Tears leak from her eyes as she rests her head on her knees. She wishes she could turn the hours back and tell herself not to leave. Unpack your bags, take off your coat, look at your sleeping husband. If she had only been brave enough to kiss him goodbye she might have stayed. She loves him so much that even daring to glance at him is to admit the betrayal. He knows where she is, she is sure of it, and that thought causes the knot of guilt in her stomach to writhe and throb. She wonders if Gideon knows what he is doing to her. Perhaps this was his plan all along. She cannot stay with him for much longer, she is slowly dying inside.
She swallows a sob as Gideon turns to face her. How long has he been awake? Bitterly she wonders if he even cares that he is creating such conflict within her, whether this is some mind game that he plays to satisfy his lust. To Ted, she is his life. To Gideon, she is the life they could have had. She needs to let him go, it needs to end. She builds her resolve, she has convinced herself that they are over and then he reaches out to her. With one touch she melts into him. He holds her, he wipes the tears from her eyes and she is weak once again. He has control and she forgets how wrong it is.
Gideon places a gentle kiss on her lips. She can taste the salt of her tears on him, his cheeks damp from her guilt and she needs him to hold her tighter. What does it matter that he is the reason for her distress if he is willing to hold her in the way he always has done, in a way that makes her forget the pain and remember that he does love her. His strong arms protect her from herself and she begins to forget her objections. They are lucky to have each other; they love each other despite the adversities. Torn apart time and time again, they have struggled against fate but now they lie together and hold each other; they love each other as though nothing has ever changed. It doesn’t matter that she is married and he is going to disappear yet again before she can stop him. In that moment in the darkness of the night, they are together and that is all that matters.
Andromeda is so under his spell that she forgets that it has never worked between them. The thrill is in the secrecy, the chase, the deception, the youthful naivety and the belief that everything will work out. Deceiving her husband and abandoning her young child is not thrilling even with Gideon’s arms around her, no matter how much she wants to believe in him. Underneath the clever words and charming smiles there is a harsh reality.
“I love you,” he whispers as she shivers. She does not need to hear these words now. She does not speak in reply. “You used to love me,” he says with a sigh after the silence stretches on. “I don’t know what’s changed; I thought this was what you wanted.”
He kisses her cheek and moves away, returning to his side of the bed. She hiccups miserably. How can he possibly know what she wants when she does not even know herself? For a moment, yes, this was what she wanted. His words were persuasive and she believed them. Now she cannot know what it is she truly needs.
“I did love you; I do.” Closing her eyes, she leans her head back against the wall. “But things are different now. I have a family, I have a life. We can’t just do as we please anymore without consequence.”
There is a stony silence, disturbed only by Gideon’s measured breathing. “You said that it wouldn’t change anything,” he said evenly. “You told me your feelings would remain the same.”
She is trembling, her lips are quivering. She wants more than anything for him to understand. Her hands are tied. “I believed that at the time, Gideon,” she mumbles eventually. “I thought we could carry on seeing each other as we always did.”
“Why can’t we?” he counters gruffly. She still cannot look at him. “Your marriage changes nothing if we still love each other. You never let him stand in the way of us before now.”
More tears trickle down her cheeks and she makes no move to wipe them away. That has always been his job. “I can’t be selfish anymore. I have to think about Ted and my daughter. Can’t you see what this is doing to them? It’s destroying everything.”
“If we love each other then it doesn’t matter. We’ll find a way to be together,” he says calmly, sending chills up her spine. It’s not a promise, it’s a disguised threat.
“You don’t understand.” Finally, she opens her eyes. Staring into the darkness, she tries to express herself. “Love doesn’t provide the solution, it causes the problem. I can’t stop loving you, but neither can I stop loving my family and the life I could have with them. Why don’t you want me to be happy?”
“I do want you to be happy,” he snaps. “I just don’t see why you can’t be happy with me. What am I doing wrong that means I have to be the bad person in all of this?”
There is a pause as she chews over her words. “When have we ever been happy together?” Her voice is quiet; her words are clear in the silence.
He does not respond and she begins to think she has gone too far even though she knows it is true. Apart, they focus on being together. When they are together, all she can do is focus on being apart from him. She is never happy as far as he is concerned. He cannot see it, but he is slowly poisoning her whilst at the same time being the only antidote. He has scarred her.
“You don’t mean that,” he says eventually.
“I do,” she mutters miserably. “We’re chasing after the impossible. I don’t know why we keep fighting it. We need to just accept that it’s not meant to be and go our separate ways.”
The pause is heavier this time, broken when Gideon throws back the covers and leaves the bed. Andromeda hears his footsteps as he crosses the room, and for a moment she is scared. She didn’t meant to be so harsh, yet she believes every word that she says. He has to know she is right, he has surely seen the consequences of their actions in years gone by. Everything they have done to be together has ended in tears. Their attempts were futile.
He opens the door forcefully, stopping for a moment, his face disfigured by the shadows of the light in the hall. “I refuse to give up on us. I don’t care if you do, but I’ll continue to fight it. I’m glad you cleared that up.”
He leaves the room, slamming the door behind him. The sound echoes throughout the room and shatters Andromeda’s thoughts. She is shaking uncontrollably, biting her lip in order to prevent herself crying. She has done it again; she has upset someone else she cares about. He has left her to simmer in her unhappy thoughts and she doubts he doesn’t know exactly what he is doing to her. She is the fish hooked on the line; he can’t help but reel her in. All of her resolve is weakened even though she knows she is right. The thought that Gideon is all that she has left now worries at her like a child biting their nails. She shouldn’t feel guilty yet she does because he makes it so easy to blame herself. She must preserve the last relationship she has left. Everything else has withered and died at her touch, she repels anyone who tries to get close to her. Her mother did not love her, her sisters disowned her and she has driven her only friends away with her stupidity and selfishness. She has never deserved to be happy, but she could be forgiven for believing in happiness for a short while. Ted had given her that will to love and she had thrown it away for a false love. Gideon could not love her if he could so easily take her from all that has ever been good in her life.
The front door crashes shut as she is left alone in the cold and draughty house. She hates the solitude but yearns for it when it is not there. There is a part of her that is missing and she longs for it, looking for it in different places yet never finding it. When she was younger, she thought Gideon could fill that void inside of her. Growing up, she thought she had found it in Ted. Growing up in a cold and lonely house left her with a longing for companionship and the inability to find it in the right people. She is incomplete. She wants to be whole again, always pure.